Driving in California is probably not the most relaxing of driving experiences as it is. With constant pit stops for the next iced caramel latte and bouncing between yoga appointments CA drivers can be forgiven for not paying too much attention to the road. However from today, CA drivers might have to be a little more vigilant when out and about on the sunny highways as California has now become the second US state (following Nevada) to issue permits to self-driving cars. Yes folks, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) are now granting the previously requested permits. Applications for self-driving permits began back in May although it is only today that they have finally starting rolling out to the applicants.
Before any eager California readers rush out to get their permit and place their order for their very own robotic chauffeur, it is worth noting the permits issued have all gone to the big players, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz and of course, the mighty Google. For the readers out there who are suddenly starting to panic thinking of all the ghost cars which are now on the road, don't worry. So far only three permits (for a total of 29 vechicles) have been issued which is not much when considering the number of registered vehicles in CA easily surpasses 30 million. More permits are due to be issued soon but again these all seem to be going to the big car players. Although these cars are driver-less by law the permits can only be used if an 'operator' remains in the driver's seat at all times. So the news of these permits is probably not as scary as the headline sounds.
What does seem interesting is the scope of driver-less cars in the future. Analysts from industry consultancy firm, IHS conducted a study back in January 2014 which predicted that self-driving cars (SDC) with 'Driver Controls' will be commercially available by 2025 and fully autonomous SDCs will be available by 2030. IHS also made the extraordinary prediction that the number of driver-less cars could rise from 230,000 in 2025 to 11.8 million (sold every year) by 2035. Further suggesting by 2035 the total number of worldwide SDCs in use could be as high as 54 million. It's not sure how likely such these predictions are although it is clear driver-less cars will be a popular, once they become mainstream available. For now, CA drivers may just want to pay extra attention when driving and keep a look out for the 29 cars driving around on their own...sort of.